Sunday, December 8, 2013

Frugal Teacher Picks for The Edublog Awards 2013

In addition to The Frugal Teacher, I also have a class blog: Mrs. Morgan's Superstars. I actually spend more time on our class blog during the school year because I like to share what our class is doing and it is a "hub" for my students and their parents. They can access many sites and other information both at school and at home.  I use Edublogs as the platform for this blog. Edublogs uses a Wordpress format and it is designed specifically for teachers. 
Every year, Edublogs presents awards to educators and students in many different categories.  The purpose of the Edublog awards is to promote and demonstrate the educational values of social media.  In addition, the award process gives us the opportunity to find new educator resources that we may not have otherwise found. 

Mrs. Morgan's Superstars has been nominated for an Edublog Award! We were nominated for The Best Class Blog by Nancy Jo Lambert, a librarian in Frisco, TX. I feel very honored to be nominated by one of fellow educators.  
To vote for our class blog, please go HERE.

I would also like to recommend some other nominations. I have been very involved with The Global Classroom Project for over 3 years and several of our members and affiliates have been nominated for awards in other categories. I also have an amazing PLN on Twitter and have included some of them as well. It is very hard to choose just one per category, so I have included two or three along with links to their sites.In most cases, I have had personal contact with all of these nominees. My opinion is based on my knowledge of their work and contribution to education. Please take time to visit the sites so that your decision is based on your own evaluation, not mine. 

Best Class Blog (besides mine :-) - Vote HERE
Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog
A Room With a View 
Best Group Blog - Vote HERE

Best Library/Librarian Blog - Vote HERE
Ruth Borchardt Elementary Library
Curtis Elementary Library 

Best Teacher Blog - Vote HERE
Krissy Venosdale - Venspired 

Best Individual Tweeter - Vote HERE
@techninjatodd - Todd Nesloney
@rafranzdavis - Rafranz Davis
@donalynnbooks - Donalynn Miller

Best Twitter Hashtag - Vote HERE

Best Podcasts or Google Hangouts - Vote HERE
Two Guys and Some iPads

Best Educational Wiki - Vote HERE
The Global Classroom Project
Save Our Rhinos!
Genius Hour

Best Open PD / Webinar/ Unconference - Vote HERE

Global Education Conference
Classroom Live 2.0

Best Educational Use of Social Network - Vote HERE
Hello Little World Skypers

Lifetime Achievement - Vote HERE
Anne Mirtschin @murcha
Peggy George @pgeorge

Monday, November 4, 2013

Connect2Texas - A Great Resource!

For the past two weeks we have had a Texas Critters Discovery Trunk in our room that was sent to us from The Texas Wildlife Association. The trunk contained pelts and skulls of a white tailed deer and a raccoon, skulls and feet of a red-tailed hawk and a wild turkey, books, rubbing plates, and a newsletter for each student. We had a lot of fun exploring the trunk and learning about native animals of Texas.

skulls and feet

bird calls and replicas of an Armadillo and Texas Horned Toad

The students had fun with the rubbing plates and used the books in the trunk to identify the animals by their footprints.

I found out about the trunk through Connect2Texas - a great resource for educators:

Connect2Texas is a network of Texas-based educational content providers including museums, cultural, historical, and scientific organizations, and authors.  These providers utilize interactive videoconferencing to connect to schools and deliver live educational programs and professional development to school children and educators around Texas and across the country.  Bring the scientists, experts, and authors directly to your students without leaving the classroom!

The Texas Wildlife Association is just one of the many program providers. We did a live video-conference with them and learned about nocturnal animals. We also participated in "So You Think You Saw What Happened" by The Amon Carter Museum. The Perot Museum visited our school and did a live presentation called "Fire and Ice". 

Originally, I contacted the Perot Museum about doing a video-conference presentation, but then I learned about their scholarship program and was able to bring them to our school for a reduced cost. Other Connect2Texas providers that have scholarships available to pay for distance learning programs include The Amon Carter Museum, Texas Cowgirl Museum, and the Fort Worth Zoo

Some of the programs have fees, but there are many that are free. The discovery trunk was provided at no charge. 

Many schools in Texas cannot afford to send students on fieldtrips. Connect2Texas provides a wide variety of programs that meet state standards (TEKS) and can help you bring the world to your students!

Photo credit: Miller

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Our Global Classroom Projects

Since the beginning of school, my classroom has been busy with many global projects.  We started off September with International Peace Day and Dot Day.  In October, Siyanda the Traveling Rhino arrived along with Charlotte, a flat friend from Australia.  These projects have kept us busy, but it's a good busy. We are learning about the world around us, different cultures, and empathy. 

The Traveling Rhino Project 
Karen Stadler @ICT_Integrator

This Global Classroom Project was created by Karen Stadler in S. Africa after she visited Kruger National Park July 2012. Poachers are killing rhinos in large numbers for their horns and Karen wanted to bring awareness to the situation. She sent 5 Rhinos around the world and the project caught on. At this point, there is no end in sight for this project. 

This map shows a different color for each rhino and where they have been so far.
Educators are keen to participate because they see the value in the project:
  • To educate the children of South Africa and the rest of the world about these beautiful creatures.

  • To raise awareness among the children of the world as to the plight of these gentle giants. To unite the voices of the children of the world in asking the powers that be i.e. governments, organisations, institutions etc. to take IMMEDIATE action.

  • To try to make a difference in our world and in the future existence of the rhinos, for the future of our children

  • To promote and nurture empathy.

Flat Friends and Mascot Exchange 
Julie Simmons @BJacketsFan

I received an email from Jane Sloan at Roseville College Junior School in Australia asking if we would host a flat friend. I have never participated in this type of project so I agreed.  Charlotte arrived with her friend Koala and a book all about Australia and her school. My students loved learning about Australia and comparing our two schools. Charlotte accompanied us on a field trip to a local theater and inspired us to create a book all about Texas for her class.   

The value of this project includes:

  • To share information about one’s own community and culture with students from other cultures and communities

  • To learn about places around the world by monitoring the adventures of flat friends’ visits to participating classrooms.

  • To develop an understanding of maps and to identify other places on a map

Mystery Location / Mystery Skype
A collaborative effort by HLW Skypers

This project can be something you do weekly throughout the year. It is a great way to meet and connect with new classrooms. So far, my students have participated in 6 mystery skype sessions.  It takes a while to teach them the map and communication skills needed to be successful for this activity, but it is fun and engaging. The Global Classroom Project currently has almost 200 classes on their list that you can connect with! 

The value of this project includes:
  • Students will use map skills to find the location of the mystery classroom

  • Students will use communication and critical thinking skills to ask questions to help them find the mystery location.

  • Classes communicate with other classrooms via Skype or Google+ Hangouts.

  • Students will learn to respect and appreciate the cultures and customs of others.

  • Students will be able to see the differences and similarities between themselves and others around the world.

Currently the Global Classroom Project is hosting 17 projects. These projects were created by educators for educators who understand that 21st century learning means connecting and learning with classrooms around the world. 

Please join Michael Graffin for our official launch at the Global Education Conference. During his online presentations, you will have the opportunity to meet the project creators and participants and learn about each project. He will be doing two presentations to accomodate time zones:

#1 - Global Education Conference (Nov 22 at 11:00GMT - Time converter)

6AM New York, 11AM London, 7PM Shanghai)

#2 - Saturday Nov 23 (20:00GMT, 3PM New York, sunday Nov 24 - 7AM Sydney, 9AM Auckland) (Time Converter)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Texas Science-Force and Motion

We just finished up a great unit on force and motion! I have done the spin, roll, and slide activities for the past few years, but this year I added a few more resources. 

In the science lab I set up 5 stations:

1. Spin: Students use Doodle Top Markers to spin and track the path of the spinning motion. I just use one large piece of butcher paper so that the spinners are free to roam as far and wide as they want.

2. Roll: Students roll marbles dipped in tempera paint on paper. They are given one marble at a time, one color at a time. When the marble gets dry, we switch to a new marble in a different color. I usually use 3. It works well using lids from copy paper boxes and 12 x 18 manilla paper. Be sure and have them put their name on their paper first. Students notice that it takes more force to move the marble when it rolls on to thicker parts of the paint. 

3. Slide: Students slide chalk on its side across colored construction paper to create a design. We also discuss the friction caused by the chalk and the paper. 

4. Ramps: Students use different sizes of card board, blocks, and tissue boxes to set up ramps. Then, they use objects like toy cars, wooden blocks, pencils, markers, rulers, and balls to explore speed, friction, and gravity.  I clipped felt on to one piece of cardboard and some silky fabric to another so the students could experiment with friction. 

5. Push/Pull Sorting Activity: This challenging partner activity generated discussion and critical thinking. Students sorted pictures in to push and pull categories. Some were tricky. A few pairs decided to make a third category that included both push and pull. I found this FREE activity from Number Two Pencils on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

Spin, Roll, Slide flip book: This handy FREE download from In That Room on Teachers Pay Teachers made it easy for my students to complete their performance indicator. They folded, cut, wrote and drew descriptions of each motion on the inside flap.  

Additional Resources:  I signed up for the 60 day trial of Discovery Education Science Techbook and was delighted to find videos and interactive activities to supplement this unit. They have a Texas version that is in alignment with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and the lessons are set up in the 5E format with easy to follow links. Some of the activities are also great for interactive white boards. We will use some of the resources from the Techbook for our next unit on magnetism.

Check out our learning!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My 2nd Edcamp

Our official #edcampdallas photo

Yesterday I attended #edcampdallas with some of my favorite educators: @gpmorgan3 @janhodge2006 @margielsimpson and Karen McKenzie. We attended #edcampfwtx back in July so we knew what to expect this time.  We started by putting sticky notes all over a table with the topics we wanted learn about. Next, the sticky notes were storted (affinity map style) and then the sessions were created!

Session choices ranged from Skype, Augmented Reality, Genius Hour, PBL, iPad integration and more!  One of my favorite session was led by Jon Samuelson @ipadsammy: "Things that Rock and Things that Suck". Jon called out different topics and the participants went to one side of the room if they think it rocks or the went to the other side if they think it sucks. Neutral territory was in the middle. Topics included: flipped classroom, genius hour, digital textbooks, and a few others. Each time we moved to a new position we had an open discussion - which I really enjoyed. I think this would be a great learning model for my own classroom that would help get kids thinking and talking - I would probably change the name though :-)

I also enjoyed learning about digital storytelling apps for iPad led by Heather Russell @getheather. I don't have iPads in my classroom, but someday I hope to have a few. Tellagami was my favorite. It is easy to use and students could get very creative with it. Toontastic also provides a lot of options and opportunities for students to create and for teachers to assess their understanding.

In addition to all of the great sessions it was great meeting some of my Twitter friends. #2ndchatter @AllisonHoganESD and I met and it was also nice to see some friends and presenters from #ISTE13 and edcampfwtx: @Kenya75 @akbusybee @techninjatodd @lackeymartha @RafranzDavis and more!

#2ndchat peep Allison Hogan
Jan is proud of her new edcamp t-shirt!

Edcamp Swag

I won and "Ish" T-shirt!
A big THANK YOU is also in order for @Mattbgomez @8amber8 @kenya75 @akbusybee and the rest of the #edcampdallas team. It was an awesome day of learning and connecting!

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Morning of Inspiration From Ron Clark

Getting my fangirl on for Ron Clark!
Today I took the day off so I could see Ron Clark in person. I have been a fan of Mr. Clark's since I started teaching 5 years ago. I read all of his books, saw the movie, and have made every effort to use some of his techniques in my classroom. My principal also heard him speak several years ago and since then, every morning she reads one Essential 55 rule during the morning announcements.  The Essential 55 are simple but effective guidelines to help guide behavior and instill a sense of pride and responsibility in students.  The Essential 55 has become part of our school culture.

Some of the advice he gave to the packed room full of teachers today was not over-the-top or unreasonable techniques, but just good strategies for keeping our kids engaged and challenged:

1.  Keep them moving - for every 45 minutes of instruction, take a few minutes to get the blood flowing to their brain. Songs, dancing, or just plain old jumping jacks will do the trick. He even suggested giving them 20 seconds to find a different seat to sit in!

2.  Use music to help teach. He is really good at changing words to popular songs to fit what he is teaching (and he can bust a move), but there are also tons of songs and videos on YouTube that you can use without ever having to come up with your own.  A few years ago, I changed the words to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" to fit the Daily 5 and Good Fit Books and called it "Read It". The kids even helped me with some of the wording.

3.  Don't teach to the lowest, don't teach to the middle - teach to the highest and have expections for the lowest to learn and achieve as much as the others.

"When you put a label on a kid (person) - you lower expectations." 
Ron Clark

4. Don't let the highest kids chill out and make easy A's - challenge them and raise the bar because when they enter the real world there are no easy A's.

When you push the gifted kids everyone's scores go up. Ron clark

6.  Make lessons exciting and engaging - go outside, do math problems on balloons, make it rain in your classroom by turning down the lights, playing recorded rain sounds, and putting up umbrellas.

7.  Make your kids work for their rewards - make rewards meaningful!  He used the example of doing math problems on balloons: The kids come to class and there are balloons everywhere - they have to grab one and do a math problem on it. The kids who get it right get to pop the balloon - the kids who get it wrong don't...even when they say "please". The next day, have the balloons again. This time, more kids may get it right and get to pop the balloon. Don't just stick with balloons though, because the kids who have already popped them will be ready to move on - mix it up and keep it fun and challenging.

"We have wussified America and education; why do all kids have to get trophies?" Ron Clark

8. Know who your students are - demand eye contact, learn their culture, and don't pretend that you're color blind.

8. Go the extra mile FOR YOUR KIDS - not to make other teachers feel bad or inadequate.

"Don’t take the stairs in life. Use the slide. Try something unusual. Be a disrupter. Do something. Be someone." Ron Clark

Tomorrow when I go back to school, I probably will not be jumping on top of desks, but I will definitely be making more of an effort to reach and engage my kids through songs, physical activity, and high expectations!

Thank you Mr. Clark!

For more information visit

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

International Peace Day

We celebrated International Peace Day with a few books and writing activities.
First, we read Todd Parr's The Peace Book and wrote in our writing journals about what peace means to us.

I also write in a journal while the students write. One of the ways I bring peace and calmness to my classroom is by doing mindful breathing. We take time to stop, listen, breath, and smile. It is amazing how this can settle a busy classroom in just a few short minutes. My journal entry is about the 4x4 breathing activity that our principal has us do during morning announcements.  I also drew a picture in the style of Todd Parr.

Next, our counselor visited and read How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. 

The students spent time writing notes on paper "drops" to their friends, teachers, and staff. It is so fun to see their faces light up when they receive a drop. It is also nice to see how excited they are about giving the drops with kind words and encouragement. I have set up a basket and a stack of drops in a central location in my room and have designated our morning settling-in time as the time they write and deliver drops. I am planning to keep this a positive, ongoing activity in my classroom.

We have taped baggies to our desks for easy delivery and storage of our drops!

Low Tech and High Tech Dot Days

This is the first year that I celebrated International Dot Day in my classroom.  We actually celebrated it on two days: Monday September 16 and Friday September 20.

The Monday celebration was very "low-tech". A guest came and read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds and discussed how we can encourage each other and make our mark in the world.  Then we painted with our never-before-used-paint-sets. The students really enjoyed creating their own dot and making their mark. The dots made a beautiful hall display.

On Friday, we went "high-tech" by inviting guests to bring their Apple and Android devices so we could bring dots to life using the augmented reality app ColAR.  The students colored dots on special color sheets printed from the ColAR app site. When we aimed the devices at the color sheet, the dots became spinnng, bouncing spheres that multplied and changed sizes!

Use these two images to check out ColAR app. Just go to the site and download the app to your Apple or Android device.  Once dowloaded, click on play, aim it at one of the images, and watch it come to life! Make sure the whole image is in your screen. It will turn purple and then come to life!



Saturday, August 31, 2013

Using Twitter the First Week of School

Last week during my Classroom 2.0 LIVE presentation I unveiled my goals for 2013-14:

On-going relationships with other classrooms

Learning is more interactive and collaborative in nature
Project-based learning
Inquiry-based learning
Creation - Finding our passion

This year, we will be using Twitter daily will help meet these goals. Over the summer I attended several presentations about Twitter in the classroom. The most memorable was Matt Gomez's session at TCEA Tots and Tech in June. He explained how he used Twitter with his kindergartners to connect and learn. I have been using Twitter as @frugalteacher and @mrsmorgansclass for a few years, so it seemed natural to have a class Twitter account.

I spent the summer carefully thinking about how I would implement and manage Twitter in the classroom because I want it to fit seamlessly into our daily routine and I want to make sure I am covering our state's standards. 

In past years, we would start our day with "morning work" that consisted of 2 things:

  • A daily worksheet with sentences that require the students to correct spelling and grammar errors
  • A map packet with daily questions relating to the map of the week
The students work on these independently and then we go over them together. This takes up a lot of time and I am not sure it accomplishes very much in the way of learning or engagement. Using Twitter allows students to not only work on these skills, but it also is an engaging, interactive way to hit our goals AND the required standards.

Before school started I set up our class Twitter @SycSuperstars and followed a few classrooms. Many of my connections are setting up separate Twitter accounts for their classrooms, so I picked a few to follow.

On the first day of school I introduced our classroom Twitter account to my students during morning meeting. I explained what a "tweet" is and how we only have 140 characters to say what we want to say. We looked at the classrooms we are following and read a few of their tweets and then introduced ourselves to two classrooms.  The next day read our replies and then responded. Most of our tweets have consisted of introductions and questions. For example, we learned that in Ohio they call their cafeteria the dining hall, but they eat the same kinds of food we eat. 

For the first few days, the students dictated the response and I typed them. They carefully watch the character count and let me know when we are running out. They help revise and edit the tweet so it fits in the 140 character limit. 

During the week, an education reporter for our local newspaper followed us and tweeted about how we are using Twitter. My students responded to her by asking questions about her job as a reporter. I used this opportunity to have the students do the typing themselves. Each sentence was typed by a different student. We composed the tweet together.


So far we have connected with two classrooms in Texas and one in Ohio. Enter map skills...We have large US and World maps that we will use to locate our connections and mark with a pin. Tracking real places with real people will bring our maps to life, making them an interactive, ever-changing artifact of our learning. We will also make these connections even more authentic by doing video conferencing sessions using Skype or Google Hangouts.

I am extremely encouraged by the possibilities Twitter has to offer and can't wait to see where it will take us!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Work With What You Have!

I was the Featured Teacher on today's Classroom 2.0 Live presentation today! If you have never participated in one of these Saturday presentations, it is well worth the the time.  I have learned so much about web 2.0 tools, best practices, classroom management, and more from these live webinars.

Today I talked about making the most of what you have. Instead of lamenting or complaining about what you DON'T have in your classroom, use what you DO have to its fullest potential!

In my presentation, I share how I made the decision to do more with technology in my classroom, goal setting, and examples of projects and tools that I have used to transform my classroom in to a global classroom.

LiveBinder Link:
(Note: Click on tab for "Louise Morgan-Featured Teacher" in the LiveBinder)