Earth Hour with 21 Third Graders


#sol18 April 17, 2018


This week is Earth Week at our school and today we started with an “Earth Hour” where we were all encouraged to turn off the lights and AC and appreciate Earth (read as a subtle hint to get your butts outside). All of that sounds great, but a few realities soon set in…

  1. Without the lights on in our classroom even on a sunny day it is too dark to do much of anything.
  2. It is hot, hot, hot this week (real feel over 100 and humid), so without the room really heats up the room quickly.
  3. There is not much shaded outdoor space at our school so we would have to be flexible.

We headed outside a few minutes early and held our Morning Meeting at the covered play area. It was hard to hear their voices, but we did the best we could. Next we split up into groups to practice storytelling/reading the stories that we would share with our Prep Senior buddies (kindergarten at our school). The students had written these, so a practice beforehand was essential and worked out well out there.

By then the area started to get more crowded, so we looked for another outdoor space- sadly the peace garden was taken, as was the other garden area, so we ended up settled on a low wall near the front of the school. Here all the students had a chance to write or sketch what they wanted and enjoy the outdoor time (I wrote a poem with the last line being “and some are never quiet”, which tells you it may not have been as peaceful as I had imagined beforehand.

For our final few minutes, we went inside to a new space, the Community Room. The room is usually used for meetings, but the door had been left open, so we ventured in- it was hot! We read Brendan Wenzel’s Hello Hello, which seemed appropriate for Earth Week, as it focuses on the wonder of animals in our world and calls us to advocate for animals that are threatened.

We then headed back to our classroom and spent a few minutes cooling down (and started our next chapter book read aloud The Creature of the Pines, book 1 in the Unicorn Rescue Society series). We enjoyed the change of scenery but appreciated the air conditioning for sure!


The Wonder of Wonder


#sol18- April 10, 2018

We have just started our “Earth and Space” science unit and one of the big ideas is how day and night work. Rather than watching a video, reading a book, or resorting to another way of “teaching” the students we are trying to help them figure it out through observations. The pre assessment revealed few (if any) students had any clear understanding of this, so we are starting to explore. Yesterday and today we went outside at various times to photograph our shadows. We went out at 8:30 AM, 10AM, and noon yesterday. Then I asked the students to post their three pictures on their blog and write about what they thought was happening.

One student wrote that earlier in the day there are fewer clouds and later in the day when there are more clouds the sun gets covered so your shadow is shorter. Other students just posted their pictures without any speculation as yet. Some even “knew” that it had something to do with the location of the sun. Today when we went outside for another photo shoot at 2PM there were some excited squeals of delight when they saw their shadow behind them, some students shouted out “I knew that would happen!”, while others were truly surprised.

Our discussions over the next few days will be interesting as we begin the process of making individual models, then partnering up to share ideas, then attempt to come up with a class version. This wonder of wonder is one of the things I love best about inquiry! I am annoyed that my pictures are on my school ipad, because even though I am a jaded adult, the shadows were intriguing!




#sol18 April 3, 2018

Most mornings (I would like to say every morning, but I have to be honest, it is most mornings) after I poke off my alarm and turn on the water heater I next switch on Calm (a mindfulness/meditation app) while I wait for the water to heat up. Tamara Levitt‘s soothing voice guides me for 10 minutes as I try to practice mindfulness. Today she introduced the word “hiraeth”, a Welsh word, meaning nostalgia or homesickness for the lost places of your past. This struck a chord with me this morning on so many levels. It could be my transition back to school after a great (and very relaxing) break, but there was more. As I prepare to move on from my school this June I am spending more time reflecting on what I will miss about here and what I hope to find in the next place, so kind of a preemptive nostalgia. Couple that with the knowledge that two of my very best friends recently spent a few days together (we live in three different countries, so time together is not easy). I do not make friends easily (I am an introverted hermit at heart), so really treasure the friends I do have. While I think back to these friendships I am ever hopeful that I will make some good friends in the next place too. Tamara ended the session by reminding us that it is important to make room for the present since life is an exercise of constant change. So while hiraeth may really focus on a place, for me, today, it brought to mind the people of my past and my hope for the future (without shutting off the present).


Former students still slicing- Zhi Hong and Juliet.

Reflections on the Challenge- Year 4


#sol18- March 31, 2018 Day 31 of 31

  1. I am already looking forward to introducing the challenge to new colleagues at my next school
  2. I was disappointed that more of my students did not participate- a few did, but none every day (although two students from last year sliced stronger than ever)
  3. There is never enough time in the day
  4. My slices were shorter this year
  5. I never used any ideas from my idea list (which I did not even create before the month started- least prep ever)
  6. This is the second year I have meant to attend Leigh Ann’s “party” and didn’t make it
  7. I am happy that more teachers from my school sliced themselves this year
  8. I am happy that more students at our school were invited to participate this year
  9. I still never manage to draft ahead
  10. Some days I had lots of ideas, but I never used those extra ideas on another day
  11. I loved the variety of slices I read
  12. I never had as much time as I wanted to comment
  13. Having a school break during the challenge makes my topic choice more varied, but poses other challenges
  14. I felt proud when my 7PM writing reminder alarm went off and I was already writing
  15. There are a lot of amazing writers in this community
  16. Some days were harder to write than others
  17. I almost never knew what I was going to write before sitting down
  18. I always wrote at night (and I am NOT a night owl, just not willing to get up before 5AM)
  19. Most of my slices were “traditional” (not poems or other formats)
  20. I missed doing the Welcome Wagon (maybe next year)
  21. I usually sliced before commenting
  22. I was thrilled when Kathleen changed her commenting settings so I could comment on her posts more easily
  23. I love some people’s blog theme and may change mine-still happy with WordPress
  24. I may have to finally pay for WordPress because I wanted to add audio and video to a few posts
  25. I should include more pictures
  26. I want to join a writing group
  27. I never wrote fiction
  28. I should start using labels/tags now that I have so many posts
  29. I will probably struggle to find an idea for Tuesday
  30. I showed up every day
  31. I can’t believe it is over

Feeding My Teacher Heart


#sol18- March 30, 2018

There are some who might not choose to use half of their March break on PD, but then there are those of us who do:)

Today was started off with a fabulous keynote by Pernille Ripp. If you have not heard her speak you are missing something special. I have followed her on Twitter and via her blog for years and first had the pleasure of meeting her at NerdCampMI a few years ago. She is one smart cookie and I find that she inspires me to turn around the next day and try to be a better teacher for my students. Her no-nonsense way of stating her opinions, explaining her philosophies, and advocating for whats best for students had me smiling and nodding throughout.

I fangirl stalked her the rest of the day- attending her sessions on Passionate Readers, Passionate Writers, and Global Connections. She reminded us of the importance of community, of asking the kids for feedback on our teaching (she says we have the best pd in our classroom every day, so we should make use of this and ask students for their input more often), we have to share our “hard times” as a reader and writer more purposefully, and so much more. I love her honesty as she shares the things she used to do that now she has reconsidered. I enjoy how she sprinkles in research and cites her sources and always has some books to recommend. IMG_7090.JPG

I am grateful to have had the day learning from Pernille once again that I can be a better teacher with resources like her to support me- the perfect boost as we begin the fourth quarter on Monday.

As an aside, Pernille is also an exceptionally generous person and carried three professional books for me from the US that I can’t wait to read (Patterns of Power, which I have read and needed to own, in addition to Kids 1st From Day 1 and Poems Are Teachers)- more fuel for my teacher heart.




The Important Thing About PD


#sol18 March 29, 2018 Day 29 of 31

A little context: I am at EARCOS, a large, regional teacher’s conference and happy to be enjoying some PD during break (really, I am glad it is happening while I do not have to write sub plans). It is a great chance to connect with colleagues, meet some people I follow on Twitter, and learn from some of the speakers. Day 1 ends with an evening reception (still to come), but I was in a session about using picture books to inspire some poetry this morning and drafted this based on The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown and decided this could be my slice:

The important thing about PD is that it helps you to grow,

It should be differentiated,

It reaffirms or brings about common understandings,

It gives energy when done right,

But the important thing about PD is that it helps you to grow.


Looking forward to two more days of learning.

Internet Woes #sol18 March 28, 2018 Day 28 of 31

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI know this is really minor in the big picture, but traveling makes some things an issue that are not even considerations at other times. I sometimes complain about my internet at home, but traveling and expecting WiFi brings on new levels of frustration. I suspect I inadvertently messed with settings at one point on my phone and computer because I usually have more trouble connecting than whoever I am traveling with. In general, I would have more of a “who cares” attitude, but March stresses me out, between making sure to blog daily, link my post, comment on at least three other slices, link any student posts, well internet access is key.

Nonetheless, here I am, settled in my new hotel room poking out a slice on my phone, because I have not yet managed to get my computer connected to the free WiFi… I know, I should stop complaining and go explore Bangkok. Problem minimized, by delaying the issue:)