Monthly Archives: August 2017

Shower Idea- Class Ambassador


#sol17- August 29, 2017

I don’t know about you, but I swear I get some of my best ideas while in the shower. Just before this school year started I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do about class jobs. I have gone back and forth over the years between assigning jobs and not. I made myself a list of jobs that would help me and the class- not just “everyone has a job” jobs. I decided to try out no jobs, but after a day or two of me having to do lots of tidying after the students left that idea seemed not to work for this year’s crew. I had 18 students, and in looking over my job list I just about had that number of jobs that might be needed. Then I thought about other things the students could do- I like to grow student empowerment, so want them to feel it is our class, not my class. In the shower that morning I was thinking about the tours that were already starting to come through- families being led around by someone from the admissions office. When I am not teaching I am always happy to talk to these groups, but, not surprisingly, I am often teaching and I feel bad that I do not even have a moment to chat, even though we are always told to continue on as usual. That’s when it came to me- the students could do that job.

The next day when I introduced jobs we quickly talked about the expectations for each job, many were self-explanatory. “Class ambassador” was a new job to them, but one of my students knew very well what an ambassador is, as his mom is an ambassador. We talked briefly about what it would mean in our context: someone to greet and welcome visitors and tell them a bit about the class and what we are doing, and then answer any questions.

As luck would have it one of my students newer to English chose the job that first week. During her time in office, she got to welcome two sets of visitors and the woman from admissions was amazed. She talked to me briefly about how impressive it was to have a student approach them and speak confidently. When I shared this with the girl’s parents at Open House that night they could not believe that this was their daughter. Last week it was a new ambassador’s turn. This young man is new to the school, but when the director of admissions came in with a family while I was teaching math I signaled him and he went off to chat. After that visit, the kind director of admissions wrote a sweet email to our school director and the ES principal and assistant principal sharing her experience with this ambassador (it turns out the family was considering moving their child from another school in town and this may have helped them make the move- she starts soon). The director and principal then wrote about it in their faculty newsletters. While I appreciated the kind words, as I told them (and later told the class) this was not down to me at all, rather these amazing students who took my “shower idea” and made it their own.

After I shared the positive feedback with the class we generated a list of ideas to consider when they are the ambassador. “Be brave” was the first idea shared. This week’s ambassador is feeling nervous in case he gets to welcome a visitor, but he is also grateful that his week is a short one (we have a Thursday/Friday holiday). On the way down to the canteen yesterday one of my shyer students confided, “I can’t wait until it is my turn to be the ambassador.”

In reflecting on this I am reminded again that students will rise to challenges and that they all need opportunities to be leaders. Last week’s ambassador said that just before he asked if they had any questions he told them a few things that he thought made our class special. I think the thing that makes our class the most special is the kids (and the fabulous community we are already developing). Have I mentioned that I love my new class?



***Zhi Hong, a student from last year is still slicing.


Only Monday?!?


#sol17- August 22, 2017

Monday is always a busy day- somehow the weekend is over and not everything that was planned for gets finished… yesterday was no different! Rushing around before school I made a list of things to do later in the day. It was individual picture day for third grade and in a school with a required uniform individual pictures means the students get to choose what they wear, so they came in excited. At 9:28 we were just about to line up for snack and recess when the principal walked in.

“Oh, the new schedule- it starts today,” she said, “the duty schedule is already out and everyone is ready for the change.”

“Ooh,” I thought, “everyone but the teachers and students in third grade.”

We had asked for the schedule change (a longer time in the classroom before snack and recess would eliminate the short time back in the classroom time before specials) and we knew it was coming but had no idea it would start that day.

“Okay, guys, have a seat,” I told my third graders as I proceeded to fill them in on the change. What it meant was that I had to be ready to teach writing right then, without the half hour break first (and they had to mentally adjust to not having a break and snack yet).

I explained all this to the students (on the 10th day of school) and got part way through writing when the power went off. The EAL teacher in the room let out a small squeal, but the students remarkably kept their focus. It felt like a win. The room did heat up and it was a bit dark, but we prevailed. 

We walked down to snack at our new snack time and saw that the whole building was dark. My teammates gathered in our team common area for a break. We stayed on there to work as it was brighter and a bit cooler than our classrooms. A teacher/runner came to tell us that the whole area was out and could take up to two hours to fix. By this time teachers were remembering another such incident years ago where the school closed early as a result. All I could think of was Picture Day and Open House- ugh, lots to reschedule.

While the students were still at their first special, at 11:40, and announcement came over the intercom: “Due to the power outage and the projected time needed to restore power our campus will close at 12:30. Specials will end at 12:10.”

Confused third graders walked upstairs after their first special ended, but were quickly shuttled back downstairs to their second special. At 12:10 we teachers were unsure what to do- go downstairs to pick up our students, or wait for them to arrive back to us. We ended up going down and I found my class easily, although the team leader could not find her class and ended up going back upstairs to wait for them. A bit of extra confusion. 

After bringing my class together to explain how dismissal would work I also told them that pictures would be rescheduled. Surprise, surprise, at about that time the power started coming back on, but not yet in our team.

When the students were dismissed (too hard to rescind the dismissal plan) we teachers were told that it would be a regular work day, even though our server was still down. Funny how much of the work we wanted to do required the internet. Because the server was down a decision about Open House would be made at 3.

I actually got quite a lot done (hello pile of writing pre-assessments and more). Before 2 the server was back up, so everything was a go… All seemed back on track.

So, of course, one of KL’s famous afternoon thunderstorms started in with a fury. Our maintenance crew happened to be in our team putting out chairs for parents when my ceiling started leaking. Luckily the leak was not too bad and a trash can held the water.

I won’t even get in to the pizza delivery issue- suffice it to say that not everybody got what they ordered to fortify themselves before Open House. Nonetheless, the rain subsided, some parents arrived, and Open House went on as planned, but as we left for the night our team had a quick debrief of the day- phew, hard to believe that it was just/still Monday! Starting the week with a bit of chaos and a later than usual night. 





*** Zhi Hong, a former 3rd grader just keep slicing!

Early Days


#sol17- August 15, 2017

One of the things I like best about teaching is all the fresh starts. We have now completed 6 days of the new school year and I am reminded again and again how long it takes to get things done at the start of the year (general rustiness, end of year memories instead of the beginning of year memories, new routines, etc.).

This year one of the things I am trying to plant early is that everyone is a teacher and learner. We have to trust each other to do their best. The students are working in all different configurations as they choose their seat each day. Sometimes partners are assigned, sometimes they choose. In the early days when the EAL support teacher and LR teacher are doing the start of year testing, students learn flexibility early and often.

This afternoon in math, students were partnered to play a new game. We have 17 students, so I was a partner too. A few minutes later the counselor came to pull students one at a time for a “getting to know you” meeting. As she took one student, partnerships were sometimes reconfigured and I was “free” to observe. Then the EAL support teacher came in to work on reading assessments, so we were back to an odd number of students and I was a partner again. When the counselor was finished I was again an observer (and sometimes a reteacher, helping the students understand a variation of the first game). Afterward, I commented to the students, “You were all so easy about switching partners.”

Afterward, I commented to the students, “You were all so easy about switching partners.”

“We all got to play the game,” one answered sweetly.

These early days are so busy, but what I have to remind myself is that we are setting up things for the whole year ahead. I want them to know that they can count on each other and do not need to rely on just one partner. They are coming from five different classrooms and we have a few new students too. They did not really know each other until a few days ago. I want them to know that we all have a lot to offer our community. As we work on shared class agreements based on our hopes and dreams for the year (thank you Responsive Classroom), make posters about what we like and do not like in work partners in general, create identity webs, and so much more we are laying the groundwork for the year ahead. I love that one student said on the way to the bus, “I’m in the best class this year- we’re all loving reading.” I know that it won’t always be rainbows and sparkles this year- we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but if we can build this foundation of trust we will definitely have a better year.

I love that one student said on the way to the bus, “I’m in the best class this year- we’re all loving reading.” I know that it won’t always be rainbows and sparkles this year- we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but if we can build this foundation of trust we will definitely have a better year. I feel like we are off to a great start!



*** Zhi Hong shares (a former third grader who is still slicing).

#pb10for10 Things Third Graders Love


August 2017

I never have a good idea for a theme until late… here it is the 10th and I finally have one I can roll with- picture books about things third graders love (written with the help of some third graders, past and present). Well, the school year has started and I am sick, so that is my excuse (this year) for being late (again- updated on the 13th). You also might notice I am rarely good at limiting myself when it comes to books…think of it as a list and alternates…

  1. Unicorns- Because it seems unicorns are really a thing for third graders!     16250904.jpg30312747.jpg                                29068867.jpg
  2. Friends/Family16101066.jpg 20307024.jpg Families are friends and vice verse.
  3. Exploring   Perfect as we start to talk about Genius Hour!                                                                                                                           18383325.jpg22926713.jpg
  4. Wonder/Passion 25897837.jpg

     (I love Jess Keating’s version too!)

    More GH fodder. I can’t wait to see what they wonder.

  5. Humor                            13531024.jpg


    (3rd one coming soon!)

  6. Perspective

    (was a favorite in our Mock Caldecott last year)

    18967185.jpg                          22521973.jpg

  7. Growth mindset

    My class last year did such amazing writing based on this book!                             

    31625795.jpg                                          28186319.jpg

  8. Inspiration765654.jpg                                        13588082.jpg
  9. School  25689022.jpg14843803.jpg
  10. Wow            32333289.jpg 25489033.jpg

Thanks to Zhi Hong, Sejin, Mikaela, and Annabel for title ideas and 3EV this year for enthusiasm.

Wahoo- First Day!


#sol17- August 8, 2017

Today was our first day of school and knowing this I thought that I would draft my slice last night, but after a busy day of meeting students (the Ice Cream Social is supposed to be a quick event, but somehow always stretches) among other first day prep things I just could not manage it. So here I sit, writing after…

  • arriving at school while it was still dark to have time to calmly start my day (aka write up my schedule, organize all the materials I might need, etc.)
  •  seeing all my grade level colleagues arrive earlier than usual too, so we had time for a quick chat/laugh/check-in (I LOVE our team)
  • meeting and greeting my 17 students (only two of whom are new to the school)
  • teaching morning routines and having our first Morning Meeting (and bam I learned all the names!)
  • remembering how s l o w l y things get done the first few days (weeks?)
  • reading two picture books (The Story of Fish and Snail and School’s First Day of School)
  • jumping on a table (a la Colby Sharp) to proclaim my love for reading
  • learning more about each other and the year ahead we hope for
  • making it to recess and lunch/snack on time
  • losing not a single child in all the confusion of the first day
  • having my first recess duty
  • remembering to send a student down to the nurse at the right time for her blood sugar monitoring
  • sending home the tons of paperwork that the first day entails
  • emailing parents a copy of the welcome email so that they can subscribe to the class blog for announcements
  • updating the blog
  • solving the mystery of why one email bounced back
  • answering the parents who were already scheduling “Getting to Know You” conferences as well as other issues they emailed me about
  • setting up a job chart so that all the unfinished things I had to do today can be shared by the kids tomorrow
  • leaving with a small stack of “All About Me” papers that I will read in a bit
  • ordering pizza for delivery- I think I need it!


I have to admit, all things considered, it was a great first day! Phew, now I can relax and sleep soundly tonight.


*** A former third grader still slicing!






Links to Share This Week- August 6

I decided I would use my blog to collect links to share with colleagues. I feel like I am being a pest when I frequently email people to share so I will collect links once a week, and people can check them out or not.

A fun back to school video (yes, it is an ad, but the teacher has a good message).

A digital magazine for the science minded students (and others too). I love by Jess Keating. Her website is also rich and she has lots of great videos.

Posters, bookmarks, reading lists, etc. that you might want to print by Debbie Ohi. Scroll down a bit.

If you have not listened to Wow in the World yet, here is the link. It is NPR’s first podcast for kids and it is great!

One of my favorite blogs, Two Writing Teachers, is currently running a series on writing workshop.

Looking for even more places to find rich math tasks? This list may help.

A new community blog focused on building relationships in the classroom that I like has a post today on building community in the first few days with some good ideas.

A reminder about the many literacy events you can participate in this year.

I would really like to start a writing group with teachers at my school this year. Writing just because or writing for another purpose. Just writing at the same place and sharing a little. Maybe a weekend morning at Starbucks for an hour?

Do you have recent favorite links you love to share? I’d love to add to my list!



#sol17- August 1, 2017

Living in the tropics nature and wildlife often take on new definitions. In general, insects seem to be more present and bigger here. There seem to be a few times a year where a few tiny ants make my home theirs. It is a low-level irritation- they stay out of my food and trek back and forth across the white tile floor for a few weeks and then word seems to get out that it is not so interesting in A-15-16 and as stealthily as they appear they are gone.

I was away for 4 weeks this summer and the ants seemed to become more content in the apartment. So far ignoring them is not doing the trick. Neither is the vinegar I keep wiping along the path they take from the front door and along the baseboard in the dining area. I am hesitant to use more serious means, as I have a cat (and although I find one pet quite enough the ants seem to need more convincing).

I have to admit the ants are smart, or at least they communicate amazingly well and just have bad taste. The other day my cat threw up. She does this more than I’d like- seems to be a combination of lots of shedding and a sensitive stomach. Usually, I hurry over to clean up her mess, but this day I wanted to finish my breakfast first. Imagine my horror when I made it over with a paper towel and saw that the ants had bellied up to their own breakfast bar-ugh- and they called in all their long lost relatives!



Sorry- gross to see cat throw up, but focus on the ants! I do not know how they got word so quickly!


I cleaned up the mess quickly and that was that. I am still seeing a few ants checking around for treats, but only a few.

I won’t tell you about the visitor I killed yesterday morning in my kitchen, but I am hoping you will tell me it was NOT a cockroach… I am hoping that word gets out in the insect world that this is NOT the place to hang out!


Please tell me it is not!