Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Padlet

I really don't like a handout with a bunch of links on it.  (I apologize to everyone who's ever given me a handout with a bunch of links on it.  This is absolutely nothing personal.)  But, I just lose the handout.  Or I look at the link, and it's fabulous, and then I accidentally toss the handout or tuck it away somewhere and never find it again.

I guess this whole subject is on my mind because this is, after all, PD season.  And we are all getting fabulous resources, but I really need everything to be kept in one place electronically so that when I need it, I can get to it quickly.  And there's no paper to store.  Or lose, as the case may be.

I have used PortaPortal before, and I like it.  I've also used LiveBinder, and I like it.  But, for some reason, Padlet just makes me really happy.

Here's a screenshot of a Padlet we made for our summer social studies training.  It's basically an electronic bulletin board, kind of like Pinterest, only with more options for linking.  With Pinterest, you're simply pinning an image to your board, and that image links back to the website.  Padlet works just a little differently - and better for purposes of keeping all of your links in one place.
Okay, so you see all of these tiles?  They all link to either a website, a document, or a picture or video.

Here's an example:
This particular tile is linked to the Civil War Trust website.  Another feature of Padlet that I love is that you can add descriptions for each link.  I use it to include reminders of how to find exactly what I'm looking for on the website I'm linking, so that I don't have to wade around in websites for hours just to find one thing I need.

To go to the link, all you do is click anywhere on the tile.
And the website pops up . . . but it pops up within the Padlet.  So, you're not opening a hundred million windows.  Whenever you're through working, just click the red X in the corner, and you're right back at your Padlet.

Of course, you don't have to just link to websites.  You can also upload lots of different types of files to a Padlet tile - PDF, Word, PowerPoint, etc.

Adding tiles is super easy.  You just double click anywhere on the board, and this box will pop up.  You type in the title of your link, and enter your description in the "Write something" field.  Then, you click the link icon to link to a website, click the upload icon to upload a file, or click the camera icon to upload a photo or video.  If you enter everything but want to delete it, just click the red trash can!

Padlet offers lots of options for customizing your board.

Here is how you can customize your layout.  You can change the wallpaper, how the tiles are laid out, etc.

This is the sharing option on the menu.  LOTS of possibilities.  I've even used the sharing link in a QR code that people can scan.

I've used Padlet in my classroom, too.  You can think of it as a bulletin board with virtual sticky notes that kids can place on it collaboratively.  So, they can use it to take notes as they research a topic - and then rearrange them to group their ideas for writing!  They can use Padlet as an exit ticket collector, where you provide a quick quiz and then they log into Padlet and place their answers on exit tickets that you can then save and capture.  Students could also use Padlet to debate a topic - color code the "stickies" according to the side of the topic they're arguing and then weigh the evidence visually as you sort them.  There are TONS of options!

If you try it, let me know how you use it!  I have a feeling that the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mental Vitamin C - Lessons Learned in an Unlikely Place

About a month ago, I was in Nashville for training in facilitating social studies professional development for the Department of Education.  It had been a bad week for me, that week before I left, and I was traveling by myself to work with people I didn't know on a project I felt woefully inadequate to tackle.

While there I stayed at the Airport Marriott - a truly lovely place with even lovelier people.  Being a total nerd, I always like to check out the hotel "stuff" in the bathrooms.  I mean, who doesn't love itty bitty bottles of shampoo you've never tried, right?  Well, this one had makeup remover wipes, which really isn't a big deal for most people, but being the aforementioned nerd I thought it was pretty cool.  I mean, they were individually packaged and everything!  So, I used one and then settled down with a cup of chamomile tea and a book.

Well, the next day, after a long day of training, I came back to a blissfully clean room - I seriously need to get someone to make my bed here at the house - and noticed that the makeup remover wipes had been replaced . . . and then some.  I'd used just the one, but five or six were left for me.  I thought that was really nice, then noticed that the chamomile tea bag I'd used had been replaced with three or four more.  I realized that the housekeeper had noticed - I mean, REALLY noticed - what I'd used and enjoyed and then had taken the time to leave me extra.  I was very impressed.

Next day, the same thing happened.  I used one of something, and five or six more were left for me.  Plus, the room was absolutely immaculate.  Then I noticed something else.  By the elevator was a framed picture and letter.  Apparently, one of the hotel's housekeepers, a sweet, older lady, had been selected as one of the top nine Marriott employees in the nation!!  The letter noted that she'd been invited to a banquet in the employees' honor with none other than Mr. Marriott himself.  In the picture, she was absolutely beaming, smiling from ear to ear.  I, in my slowness, began to make the connection.  Could my angel housekeeper be this same lady?

After a week of learning and making new friends, it was time to leave.  I went up to get my bags, and I noticed the lady from the picture in the hall.  I had been right - she was the housekeeper!  She smiled and stopped to say hello and ask if I was having a good day.  The key is - she stopped.  She completely stopped what she was doing - cleaning Lord only knows how many rooms - and she looked at me and really seemed to want to know.  How often do I ask that question just to be polite, hoping that the person I'm talking with just says, "Great," so that we can both go on about our business?  And here she is, seriously caring about someone she's never seen before and likely will never see again?  I smiled and said that I'd thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

I got my bags, left her a tip in the room, took the elevator down to the lobby, wrestled my stuff into my car - only to realize that I'd left my beloved Tervis tumbler in the room.  On the sixteenth floor.  I seriously thought about just leaving it and buying a new one, but I decided to trek back for it, so back I went into the lobby, up the elevator, and down the hall.  I figured I'd catch her in the hall to see if she could let me back in the room real quick, and, sure enough, I saw her cleaning trolley just a couple of doors down.  Not wanting to really freak her out by sneaking up on her, I called out into the room that was open, and as soon as she saw me, she threw her hands up and said, "You left your cup!  I put it to the side for you.  I knew it was important because you never left it in the room and always had it with you, so I knew you would be back for it.  Let me get it for you," and she let me back in the room to get my cup.  I thanked her profusely and she then thanked me profusely for the tip - and in the midst of all this thanking she was handing me double handfuls of makeup remover wipes.  I mean, I filled my purse with them.  They lasted me about three weeks.

On my way out the door, I stopped and turned to her.  "Is that you in the picture by the elevators?"  She shyly nodded, and then beamed a huge smile at me.  I congratulated her on such a notable achievement, and she looked at me and said, "I love my work."

She loves her work.  And what hit me is that her work is what many consider not very important.  I mean, it's important when it DOESN'T get done, but how many people really stop to think about a hotel housekeeper?  In the spectrum of jobs, how much respect do we give it?  Yet, she didn't seem to think that way at all.  It was her work, and she did it well because that's what she does.  It isn't a job.  It is her work.  And it has the possibility to change people's worlds for the better.  It did mine that week.  She took care of me, in the truest sense of that word.

What if we all approached our jobs like this sweet one?  We do our work well simply because it is our work.  And it may not be important to everyone, but it is important to us, and it's important to our students.  So, we notice, and we stop, and we take time, and we smile, and we know that we don't always get acknowledgement, but that's okay, because we are changing people's worlds for the better. After all, that's why we do what we do.  We take care of our people.

I will always remember the lessons I learned from the housekeeper on the sixteenth floor of the Airport Marriott in Nashville, Tennessee.  Sometimes those learned in unlikely places are the ones that stick with us the most.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Best. Teacher Bag. Ever.

If you're like me, a few of your thoughts may have already strayed to plans for this coming year.  I definitely had a "Teacher Summer Bucket List," and getting the perfect teacher bag was definitely toward the top of it.  I had used a basic Vera Bradley tote for a while, then graduated to an Initials, Inc. insulated tote, but I knew I wanted something cute, roomy, and with lots of pockets.

I attended a week of training in Nashville early in the summer, and I was stalkerishly checking out everyone's teacher bag.  I even stopped a few to ask how they liked what they were carrying.  Not creepy at all.

So, I was out shopping one night at Nashville's Opry Mills mall, and chanced on the Vera Bradley store there.  And I fell in love with this beauty.
Now, I didn't get this exact print, but the bag style is the same.  It's the Vera Bradley Vera tote, and it is so wonderful.  To start, it has two pockets on the outside.  The one that you see is just a plain pocket, and I keep my phone and keys in it.  Then there's a smaller one with a zipper on the back, and I keep lip balm, lotion, and stuff like that in that one.

But here's the good stuff.

The inside is the perfect size - big enough, but not too big.  For example, today I got my laptop, three notebooks, one file folder of papers, a set of Plickers, my clutch, my Erin Condren life planner, AND a pair of shoes in it (long story), and it still fit comfortably on my arm.  Also, it hangs at just the right length.

What really got me are the pockets on the inside.  There are six, two medium-sized ones and four smaller ones.  I keep pens in one, highlighters in another, tech gadgets in another, one holds my sunglasses - you get the idea.  The one I got has some kind of material on the inside that lets you just wipe it out.  My life has gotten significantly better since I purchased this bag. 

Not really.

But kind of.

While I was at the Vera Bradley store, they were running a 50% off special, so while it normally retails for $86, I snagged it for half that.  If you want to check one out for yourself, you can click here.

Please note that I get absolutely nothing from the folks at Vera Bradley if you get a bag.  They have no idea who I am.  I just adore this bag and wanted to share the love!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Focus on Primary Sources

I have had an absolute blast facilitating social studies professional development this summer for Tennessee teachers.  I have no doubt that I've learned more from them than they have from me, and the experience has left me with a lot of information and resources for teaching social studies this year.  So, I'm going to start this Focus on Social Studies series, and share some of my favorite findings!

Let me take a moment and back up and explain a bit about Tennessee social studies standards.  Last year, we adopted and implemented new - way more rigorous - standards.  You can read about them here.  So, this summer, the Department of Education offered free training for teachers across the state in how to understand, implement, and provide instruction in the standards, along with continued training about our ELA and math standards.

Today, we're focusing on primary sources - and what exactly that means.  
Primary sources are any kind of artifact that provides a firsthand account of a historical event.  When we think about primary sources, text-based ones often spring to mind first - diaries, autobiographies, memoirs - but there is so much more than that!  Here is a sampling of primary sources you may not have considered:
  • Photographs
  • Maps
  • Legal documents - birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, land deeds, court rulings, immigration records, etc.
  • Weapons
  • Clothing
  • Political cartoons
  • Video footage - think news footage, home movies, films, etc.
  • Advertisements
  • Propaganda - think Rosie the Riveter, etc.
  • Archaeological artifacts - rocks, arrowheads, fossils, etc.
  • Flags
  • Speeches - text and audio
  • Poems
  • Songs and music
  • Research data - census records, etc.
  • Art - paintings, sculpture, etc.
  • Literature - poems, plays, novels, manuscripts
So . . . what's the big deal about primary sources you ask?  To me, there are two main reasons to use primary sources.

1.  It's what historians DO.  You can't get much closer to history than looking at, examining, and studying the things that were really there during that time period.  And we need our kids to think like historians - to analyze multiple sources of information and then synthesize across all of those sources to make sound, values-based judgements about what they think and why they think it.  Because that, people, is what good, informed citizens do when they are part of a community.  I am TIRED - tired, I tell you - of people basing personal decisions or even public policy on things as innocuous as Facebook and Twitter feeds!  We need for our kids to analyze the information straight from the source and then make a decision - not simply accept whatever they hear.  

2.  It's FUN.  These are the things kids love to work with when we "do" social studies!  They love to listen to period music, wear costumes or uniforms, take time to analyze photos, and compare political cartoons.  And it's really fun for our struggling readers, because when you're working with non-text-based primary sources, such as pictures or advertisements, they can do some really deep thinking without worrying about not being able to access the text.

I hope that this gets your wheels turning about what types of things you can pull for your classroom next year.  I have tons of resources for finding and using primary sources, and I'll be sharing those over the course of this series, but start thinking about these things:

1.  What do I have at home, right now, that I could use as a primary source?  Do you have family members who came through Ellis Island?  Do you have newspaper clippings from major news events?  Do your parents or grandparents have military uniforms, pictures, or souvenirs?  

2.  How could I use these resources in my classroom?  To introduce a unit?  As a daily thinking routine?  In a center or as part of reading or writing workshop?

Check back soon.  In my next post, I'll share some top resources for finding primary sources to use in your classroom!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Bloomz

One of the things on my To-Get-Better-At list for next year is parent communication.  I do an okay job of it - I have a good rapport with my parents, I send home occasional notes, I keep up with a class Facebook page, and I send home a weekly newsletter - but I want to be more intentional and focused this year.  Not so scattered.

So, Bloomz came across my Facebook feed one day, and it seems like it's a solution to my problem.  Check out this video:

Here's why I like it:
  • It keeps all of my communication in one place.  I'll still send home a weekly newsletter, but this will be command central.
  • I love the function where you can get people to volunteer for activities or to send supplies.
  • I also love that you can schedule conferences or other events in the calendar feature and it's synced across everyone's account.
  • I think that being able to safely upload photos of the kids is a real plus.
  • You can create events or updates on your phone or computer.  And parents can add the free app easily.
Best of all, Bloomz is FREE for teachers, parents, and PTA members!!

Bloomz provides sample wording for an e-mail explaining it to parents before you invite them, and I've already got that copied and pasted into a draft e-mail.   I created my account, made a calendar event for the first day of school, included a note about supplies, and I'm ready to go!

If you're interested in getting started, click here to sign up! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Sunday Scoop

It's Sunday - and it's time for a long overdue Sunday Scoop with the Teaching Trio!

First, why is it that you can try on a pair of shoes, fall in love with them, and then when you order another pair in a different color from Amazon they fit differently?  I'll never understand it.

This Pocahontas unit is hanging over my head.  I think I've got some writer's block, but I'm determined to finish it this week!  I have a student-led conference package I really need to start.

I'm planning on using Engage NY as my math curriculum this year.  We're transitioning to a new assessment in Tennessee this year, and I hear that this program is perfectly aligned with the standards for the test.  I'm planning on doing a preliminary look to see what materials or manipulatives I might need, then download and organize the modules in my Dropbox.

And speaking of materials and manipulative - I began my very first Donors Choose project today!  I thought about requesting books, but my room is overrun with them, and I honestly have plenty of Scholastic points.  So, I created a project for a class set of Kindles!  I found refurbished ones for $64 each, and with Kindles you can buy a book and then load it on up to 6 devices.  So, if I want a class set of something, I would only have to buy the Kindle version of the book 4 times to deliver it to up to 24 students!  The project is around $1,500, which I know is a lot, so if anyone has any tips for getting it funded, let me know.

I'm heading into my last week of TNCore coaching for 3rd-5th grade social studies, and it's truly bittersweet.  I've been very busy, and really don't feel like I've had much of a break, but I have LOVED every minute of training.  I've worked with almost 100 Tennessee teachers, coaches, and administrators so far, and I've learned something from every single group.  Plus, I've been able to connect with the best group of teacher coaches from across the state.  It has been an absolutely fabulous experience, and I'll be sad to see it come to an end this week.

I hope everyone has had a fantastic Father's Day!  If you still have your dad, be sure to hug him tight.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Things I'm Loving - Erin Condren Teacher Planner

It's time for Things I'm Loving Thursday!

It's never too soon to start thinking about next year, right?  Right?

Okay, maybe it's just me, but right around the time The Test starts looming my mind turns to room decorations, school supplies, and plans for my next group of kids.  Team that mindset with my love of all things Erin Condren and their Teacher Appreciation Sale, and you had the perfect storm.

So, here's my (current) favorite happy for next year!

Here's my adventure with my new planner, from box to teacher bag.

This is what I found on my doorstep.

Like Stitch Fix, the fun starts as soon as you open the box.  Look at how pretty!

This is what you see as soon as you open the planner.  I love that EC pays attention to the details - even things like the back of the cover.

And the sweet quotes you find throughout.

Holidays and dates to remember are preprinted in here for you - including fun, kid-friendly dates such as Dr. Seuss's birthday.

Then there's a page to track birthdays all year long, which is perfect for me since I'm the world's WORST about remembering birthdays!

An absentee page.  I probably won't use this so much because we keep track of absences online.

There are pages with grid paper, so you can sketch room diagrams and seating arrangements.

Year-long planning.  LOVE.

Lots and lots of pages for notes come before each monthly section.  

Each month has a large, monthly, 2-page calendar spread and a pretty cover page.  These are just a handful of my favorites.

And this is what the monthly calendar looks like.  I don't love that the numbers aren't preprinted, but you have the choice of handwriting them in or purchasing cute little number stickers from EC that fit perfectly.

After the calendars you get a TON of planning pages - which I apparently forgot to photograph.  But they're pretty standard - only prettier with color.

This is a picture of the student checklist pages that come after the planning pages.  You get 7 with your planner, or you can choose an option to add on extras.  I think 7 will be plenty for me, since I'll be using them solely as a checklist, but if you plan on using them for grades, you may want more.  I also like the fact that you can write the student names once, then when you turn the page you can turn the name flap back so you don't have to rewrite all the students' names.

Stickers!  Both preprinted and blank to use as you like.  

This is one of my favorite things in my life planner, because it's where I tuck receipts, notes, and other little things that tend to get lost.  There's a pocket on the front AND on the back of this.

EC always sends fun gift stickers with planner purchases, and they come in this attached zip top bag. Perfect for keeping stamps, pens, paper clips . . . 

The inside of the back . . . 

And the back.

Not getting notepads is the only thing I regret about buying my Life Planner, so I made sure to get them with my Teacher Planner.  So pretty!  The paper is good quality and thick, and the colors are really bright and vibrant.

And see what I mean about detail?  Even the back of the notepad is pretty!  They attach to your planner with those little foam sticky things in the corner.

Now, Erin Condren is a bit of an investment . . . but one that I think is so worth it, particularly if you really enjoy office supplies and organizing stuff.  Plus, it's one of those teacher things that I use every single day, so why not choose one that'll make me happy every time I see it?

There are lots of planner options out there, but if you're a pencil and paper type of person, you need to at least give Erin Condren a look.  

Enjoy your day!