Becoming a Connected Educator

This page is a journal that I kept during the summer of 2011 when I first joined Twitter and started learning how to be a connected educator. Roll to the the bottom and scroll up. 

August 28, 2011 - Last post 
The first week is under my belt and I can say with great satisfaction that it went very well. I have wonderful students who will provide many joys and challenges this year. 

I introduced Read to Self (Daily 5) on the first day of school. The students responded very favorably and enjoyed being able to help "set the rules". Since this was new to all of them, they really didn't know what rules to start with so I helped them out by offering the first few suggestions. Then we practiced. When we met again, the students were able to offer more suggestions. Here is how it went:

I explained that Read to Self would be a time for them to read and build stamina. I explained stamina by telling them that I wouldn't try to run a 5 mile marathon when I can only walk 2 miles on the treadmill. I would have to build my stamina just like they would be doing over the next few weeks as they build on the amount of time spent reading.  

I explained some basic ground rules for getting to our spot:
1) Walk to your spot 
2) No talking
3) Start reading right away 

I also gave them some guidelines for reading:
1) follow along with your finger
2) read with eyes not mouth
3) keep your eyes on the book

After our first few attempts, the students made some more suggestions for getting to their spot:
4) walk
5) don't sit near someone that you might want to talk to

They also had additional suggestions for reading:
3) No "fake" reading (They were really good at demonstrating this ;-)
4) Get in the "Zone" (They loved the idea of getting so into their reading that they didn't realize when I signaled them to stop)

On the 3rd day I had them try finding their own spot, but it was a little chaotic and took longer. One of the students suggested that I call them by tables so there wouldn't be as many up at one time - it worked beautifully and she was so proud of herself because I took her advice.

I have a few reluctant readers who had trouble focusing on their books, but I plan to confer with them individually next week to see what I can do to help them. This will also help since I tend give them the "eye" when they are reading which I know I shouldn't be doing. 

On Thursday I did the "Good Fit" book lesson and showed them this video:

I know it was a little early to to this lesson but I have a big classroom library and they were anxious to go "shopping" for books. I wanted to make sure they knew how to pick the right fit. Last week they were only allowed 2 books, but this week I will give them a gallon ziploc they can have 3. During our individual conferences I plan to have them explain how the books are a "good fit" and review The Daily CAFE strategies we learned last week:

The first week of Daily CAFE strategies:
~3 ways to read a book (read the pictures, read the words, retell the story)
~Check for understanding (stop every few pages to make sure you know what's happening in the story)
~Cross-checking words using the hand motions: Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense?

Overall, I am very pleased with first week and the students' enthusiasm. I know that spending the time this summer to immerse myself in the Daily 5  by participating in Twitter Chats, visiting teacher websites, and planning has helped make a difference in how I am presenting it this year. Taking the time to "tweek" it and showing the students that I value their feedback has also be very rewarding. 

Next week we will continue to learn more CAFE strategies and I will begin to introduce Work on Writing. I will continue to share our progress on my home page using individual posts. This page is getting really long!
August 9, 2011 Aaaah! Classroom Bliss!

After working another 5 hours today - with the help of my wonderful husband - my room is now ready!  Besides a few finishing touches, everything is ready to go on the 22nd!   That means next week when we report to work, I will be able to relax and enjoy the staff development and planning sessions instead of stressing over my room! Aaaahhh!  How about you?

August 8, 2011 Eeek! Classroom Chaos!

My first day back in the classroom is always such a mess!
Does your room look like this on the first day too or is it just me? My kids helped me unload all of the boxes and organize the classroom library, now I just need to go back and finish up tomorrow then I will be ready to start planning an awesome year!
Luckily, I did not have to re-do all of my bulletin boards.  This is a chant we do every morning to launch our day:
"I am the best therefore, I choose to act that way!"
August 6, 2011 - Storybird for Daily 5 Work on Writing and Collaborating

Storybird is a great tool for students and teachers to use during the Work on Writing (WoW) component of The Daily 5.  Students have the opportunity to choose artwork and color schemes to personalize their stories. Storybird also allows collaboration with other students or classrooms. How cool is that?  And even's FREE!  
Here is a quick tour of Storybird...take a look:

Storybird Quick Tour from Storybird on Vimeo.

July 23, 2011 - Teacher Tipster has got morning meeting DOWN!
Dustin Smith a.k.a. Teacher Tipster has a really fun and engaging style of teaching.  He uses songs, chants, and humor to turn calendar time into a fun and enriching learning session.  This is a 22 minute video but worth the time. I am certain that even the most reserved teacher will find AT LEAST one great idea they can use:

July 22, 2011 - A Kid-Friendly Search Engine
While jumping around on Twitter today I came upon Mrs. Watson's 2/3 Class Blog.  I was checking out her blog because I am looking to create a blog for my students and this an excellent example.  While there, I noticed this little widget on the side bar:
I typed "gorillas" into the search bar and was directed to a page with a bunch of kid-friendly links about gorillas. According to Dulcinea Media, this search engine designed specifically for students only searches 35,000 sites that have been staff approved.  The student can choose relevant information from credible and reliable sites.

I was intrigued. One of the reasons I have been hesitant about allowing my 2nd graders use the internet is the fear that they will stumble upon something inappropriate. As I searched the Dulcinea Media site further, I discovered this little gem:
Sweet Search 4 Me searches sites that have been approved not only by Dulcinea staff but also by librarians and teachers.  The high quality content includes sites which were created specifically for elementary school students.
Even better! This search engine will be perfect for my 2nd graders.  I have already grabbed the code and placed it on my district-based class page.  Sweet Search 4 Me will be a perfect starting point for my young researchers! I feel more confident about giving them independence without giving up safety!

I am so glad I found this thanks to my PLN and Mrs. Watson!

July 20, 2011 - Gender Specific Instruction - BOYS!
Boys want to know they have what it takes!
Today I attended a staff development led by my Vice-Principal, Jon Shepard.  He is a board member and very involved in The Boys Project - "an organization that works to increase academic skills, increase college success, and to develop the confidence, drive, and  determination to contribute to American society".

Today's workshop focused on how boys and girls learn differently and ways to teach to those differences.  Boys have a shorter attention span and need to be actively involved in their learning.  For most of us, our main discipline problems involve boys. Boys need to know they have what it takes to succeed.  I found this research on the The Boys Project to be very a very compelling reason to try new ways to help our boys succeed:

To see all statistics use down arrow to scroll -
*Specifically compelling: "Other Indicators" at the end:

For every 100 girls

Tom Mortenson
Postsecondary Education OPPORTUNITY
April 26, 2006
For every 100 girls that are conceived 115 boys are conceived.

For every 100 girl babies born there are 105 boy babies born.

K-12 Education

For every 100 girls enrolled in nursery school there are 112 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in kindergarten there are 116 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in elementary grades there are 107 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in ninth grade there are 101 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in tenth grade there are 94 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in eleventh grade there are 109 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in twelfth grade there are 98 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in high school there are 100 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls enrolled in gifted and talented programs in public elementary and secondary schools there are 94 boys enrolled.

For every 100 girls who graduate from high school 96 boys graduate
(NCES, unpublished tabulation.)

For every 100 girls suspended from public elementary and secondary schools 250 boys are suspended.

For every 100 girls expelled from public elementary and secondary schools 335 boys are expelled.

Special Education

For every 100 girls diagnosed with a special education disability 217 boys are diagnosed with a special education disability.

For every 100 girls diagnosed with a learning disability 276 boys are diagnosed with a learning disability.

For every 100 girls diagnosed with emotional disturbance 324 boys are diagnosed with emotional disturbance

For every 100 girls diagnosed with a speech impairment 147 boys are similarly diagnosed.

For every 100 girls diagnosed with mental retardation 138 boys are diagnosed as mentally retarded.

For every 100 girls diagnosed with visual impairment 125 boys are visually impaired.

For every 100 girls diagnosed with hearing impairment 108 boys are diagnosed as hearing impaired.

For every 100 girls diagnosed with deafness 120 boys have deafness.

For every 100 girls with orthopedic impairment 118 boys have orthopedic impairment.

For every 100 girls with other health impairment 127 boys have other health impairment.

For every 100 girls with multiple disabilities 189 boys have multiple disabilities.

For every 100 girls that are deaf/blind 98 boys are deaf/blind.

Higher Education

For every 100 women enrolled in college there are 77 men enrolled.

For every 100 women enrolled in the first year of college there are 79 men enrolled.

For every 100 women enrolled in the second year of college there are 71 men enrolled.

For every 100 women enrolled in the third year of college there are 75 men enrolled.

For every 100 women enrolled in the fourth year of college there are 94 men enrolled.

For every 100 women enrolled in the fifth year of college there are 65 men enrolled.

For every 100 women enrolled in the sixth year or more of college there are 78 men enrolled.

For every 100 women living in college dormitories there are 87 men living in college dorms.

For every 100 American women who earn an associateís degree from college 67 American men earn the same degree.

For every 100 American women who earn a bachelorís degree from college 73 American men earn a bachelorís degree.

For every 100 American women who earn a masterís degree from college 62 American men earn the same degree.

For every 100 American women who earn a first-professional degree 107 American men earn a first-professional degree.

For every 100 American women who earn a doctor's degree from college 92 American men earn the same degree.

Other Indicators

For every 100 females ages 15 to 19 that commit suicide 549 males in the same range kill themselves.

For every 100 females ages 20 to 24 that commit suicide 624 males of the same age kill themselves.

For every 100 girls ages 15 to 17 in correctional facilities there are 837 boys behind bars.

For every 100 women ages 18 to 21 in correctional facilities there are 1430 men behind bars.

For every 100 women ages 22 to 24 in correctional facilities there are 1448 men in correctional facilities.

According to Dr. Peter West, Head of the Research Group on Men and Families, there are ten things teachers can do to help boys learn:
Ten things:
  1. Talk Less - Avoid a long preamble
  2. Get Boys Doing - Focus on what the boys will DO in the lesson.  
  3. Use Humor - Use a joke now and then
  4. Get help - Get another teacher or assistant to help watch underachievers who slide under the radar.
  5. "Can you do it?" - challenge boys more
  6. Competition - boys love competing against others, against themselves, and against teachers.  Turn a lesson into a friendly competition to engage boys.
  7. Help with writing - Cut down writing tasks to what is absolutely necessary
  8. Being a man means...Get boys talking about what it means to be male and look for positive examples.
  9. Keep it clear - Explains tasks simply, step by step. Post them in a visible location.
  10. Be brief - Be positive - be gone -  Move around room and encourage boys with quick words of praise and then move on.
It occurred to me during this workshop that The Daily 5 is perfectly suited for boys:  Short instruction, 30 minute activity, short instruction, 30 minute activity, etc...This "Chunking" of learning and doing is the perfect way to get the boys moving and actively engaged!
    The2Sisters (Daily 5)
    The Boys Project
    Boys' Learning Research Group on Men and Families with Dr. Peter West

    July 17, 2011
    I just found Scholastic Story Starters at the Daily 5 LiveBinder. Students will love the interactive story starter buttons and the choice of formats. There is also an option to draw a picture to go along with the story.  This will be a great tool for reluctant writers during the "Work on Writing" block of the Daily 5.
    Scholastic's Story Starters

    July 15, 2011-Preparing for the #Daily 5 Chat
    This evening at 7:00 CST there will be a daily 5 chat on  Twitter.  If you are not sure how to participate in a chat, roll down to July 11 for directions.
    If you are not familiar with The Daily 5, here is a video by Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ).  
    It gives a great overview of The Daily 5 in action:

    July 14, 2011 - A Day of Reflection and Thought
    I spent some time on the computer today exploring Google+ and downloading TweetDeck. I also started re-reading The Daily 5. I read this book 2 summers ago while I was in new teacher training. After the training, I was excited and determined to implement The Daily 5  in my classroom. Well, that didn't happen. In fact, for the last 2 years I am embarrassed to say that my classroom has been more like the one described in the first few pages of the book:

    We spent too much time managing their behavior, planning activities, and putting out fires instead of teaching.  We didn't have time to plan for excellent instruction that would meet our children's needs, nor did we have enough time for small groups or individual conferences.  We knew there had to be a better way. (Boushey & Moser p. 5)

    How had I let my classroom become exactly what I knew it should not?  I'm not really sure. I was able to implement the "Read to Self" component quite easily, but my inexperience combined with some unexpected situations became too overwhelming. I found myself becoming discouraged and just started doing what I had observed in other classrooms and "winging it". Student behavior, paperwork, and new curriculum all played a part in my inability to have full control of my teaching and my classroom.

    As I get ready to start my 3rd year, I am no longer able to play the "1st/2nd year teacher card"  but I feel much more prepared than ever. My PLN has helped and encouraged me tremendously.  At the end of the school year I had no idea that by visiting a few blogs and setting up a Twitter account would open up a whole world of information that was there for the taking. I did not plan on spending my summer fully engaged with other teachers from around the world. I was going to blog about saving money, watch Food Network, and be lazy! I'm still blogging about saving money but Food Network has been ignored (Sorry Choppedand I have been doing a lot of my reading on the treadmill! Yeah me!

    Anyway, enough about me being a bad teacher...I am rejuvenated and ready to take on the world!
    My Goals:

    • Implement all 5 components of the Daily 5
    • Integrate student blogging into "Work on Writing"
    • Skype with other classrooms around the world
    There! 3 goals. I never set goals before.  My only goal was to make it to the last day of school! 
    I think 2011-12 is going to be the best one yet!

    July 13, 2011 - Wow!!! #2ndchat and #TeachChat
    Wow! That's all I can say! I participated in two chats tonight and was exhausted yet exhilarated at the end of the 2 hours!
    #2ndchat - The topic was "social networking in the classroom". The initial discussion was about using Twitter in the classroom but quickly moved to blogging. This chat really helped me nail down a few more details that I needed in my research regarding classroom blogging. I will be checking out and, before making my final decision on which format I will be using in my classroom. To follow the entire chat click HERE.
    #TeachChat - Brandi @ReallyGoodStuff did a great job moderating this HUGE chat tonight. There were so many participants but it was neat to get input from so many people in such a short amount of time. If it had been my first chat, I probably would have been frustrated. Using the TweetChat application was really helpful. Trying to do a chat from your phone is NOT recommended - just ask @PrincipalJ! The topic tonight was "The Common Core Standards and how it will affect our teaching". Even though Texas is one of the 7 states NOT participating in the program, I was still able to gain a lot of information and understanding from this chat.  To follow the entire chat click HERE.  
    You have GOT to try a Twitter Chat!

    July 12, 2011 - Classroom Blogging - Thinking Out Loud

    I have been reading a lot about classroom blogging and trying to figure out how I can utilize it in my classroom next year. This post is about me "thinking out loud" and planning how I can make this happen in my classroom.  Feel free to add comments and suggestions - Just roll all the way down to the bottom of this page!
    My Goal for 2011-12:
    • I want a classroom blog that students can access to create posts and make comments on other posts.
    Situations I need to resolve:  
    • My classroom has 2 student computers.  We are scheduled to go to the computer lab once a week for 30 minutes, but sometimes I "sneak" another 30 minutes when there is an open slot on the schedule. How can I get my students more time on the computer?
    • I am a firm believer in using the  traditional writing process (prewrite, rough draft, revise/edit, proofread, publish), but I also I feel it's important for students to learn how to communicate through electronic writing. I need to establish guidelines for blog writing vs. tradtional writing.
    • Student access to the blog.  I would like the students to have limited access to the blog - if I give all of them the password, they could create a lot of damage by accidentally deleting posts, changing settings, etc...How do I limit student access to the blog?
    • My only experience with blogging is with Blogger.  What are some other blogging sites that would be safer and easier for the classroom?
    July 11, 2011 - Participating in a Twitter Chat
    When I first started using Twitter, I noticed that people were using hashtags (#) on certain words. I also noticed that sometimes the same few people were tweeting back and forth using the same hashtag.  I finally figured out that a chat was going on!  I was intrigued and wanted in on the fun!  My first Twitter Chat was with @ReallyGoodStuff.  Really Good Stuff not only sells teacher supplies, they also have really good resources for teachers at The Teacher's Lounge Blog.  Our chat was called "Using Social Media in Lessons".  You can see the entire chat HERE.  

    To participate in a chat, you can post directly on Twitter, but it is a lot easier using the Tweet Chat application and entering the hashtag (#) provided by the host. 

    Once the chat starts, you have to be on your toes because it moves fast. During the chat, the moderator will ask a question and then all of the participants start inputting their ideas and conversing:
    ·         You can hit a reply button if you want to address someone directly. 
    ·         You can retweet something and then add to it
    ·         The hashtag automatically prefills which helps keeps a separate running record of the chat
    ·         You can enter the hashtag (#) in the search field on Twitter and see the entire conversation after the chat has ended.

    The chats usually last an hour, but it seems like 10 minutes. Conversing and sharing ideas with teachers from all over the world is so exhilarating and inspiring!  I have participated in several other chats since then and have learned so many new things.  Some of the chats I follow are:  #TeachChat, #elemchat, #edchat, #daily5, and #2ndchat.  To find out when these chats take place just search the hashtag and it will take you the page.  Once there, you can communicate with the followers and find out when the chats occur. 

    I will be participating in #TeachChat on Wed. July 13 at 8:00 CST.  We will be discussing the Common Core Standards. Feel free to come and join us!

    Here is a video explaining how to use the TweetChat application on Twitter: 

    July 10, 2011 - What I learned today
    Today I learned that during summer vacation it's O.K. to go a day and NOT learn anything!  That being said, I watched a sentimental old movie and was tearfully inspired.  I was moved by the teacher's ability to connect with his students and, in the end, make a difference in their lives.  As teachers isn't that what we all have genuine relationships with our students and make a difference in their lives? 
    What is your favorite "teacher movie"?
    "To Sir With Love" - making salad 

    July 9, 2011 - Learning about Skype in the classroom
    I have been networking with my PLN and have agreed to be part of a global classroom in which teachers from all over the world collaborate and share classroom experiences with each other.  One of the ways that classrooms can communicate with each other is through SKYPE . 
    Here is a short video with a visual explanation of Skype:

    So far, my research has taught me... 

    • Students will experience enriched learning experiences
    • Students will learn new ways to use technology
    • Students will learn about new cultures, customs, and understand what "global" really means 
    • Teachers will experience enriched learning experiences
    • Teachers will learn new ways to use technology
    • Teachers will experience professional development and build relationships through their Personal Learning Network (PLN)

    But I still have questions...

    • What kind of equipment is needed?
    • Is the FREE service adequate for communicating with classrooms in Australia, New Zealand and other far-away lands?
    • How do we deal with the time-zone differences?
    • Can videos "Skyped" to classrooms in different time zones?
    This is all so new and exciting and I would LOVE to make this part of our classroom experience! I found this short video on YouTube which gives a brief overview of how Skype in the Classroom can be used among educators:

    I would really appreciate your comments!
    (Roll to the bottom of page to post comments)

    July 8, 2011 - The Daily 5
    I have been a teacher for two years and have used the "Read to Self" component of The Daily 5 both of those years.  As a new teacher, I was so overwhelmed with everything, that I didn't feel ready to tackle The Daily 5 in its entirety.  I tried to do centers and small groups in the traditional way, but I found that it takes so much time to prepare centers, explain them, and then manage them. A quick explanation at the beginning of the week is not enough.  If a student rotates through a center on Thursday that was explained on Monday, he/she may not  know what to do and become frustrated. During center time I work with small groups, but it can be difficult to fully concentrate on the group when I know that the other students are confused about what to do or they are not fully engaged.  I am convinced that The Daily 5 is my solution for maximizing learning in my classroom.  The book has a week-by-week schedule which guides the teacher in introducing each of the components.  As I approach my third year of teaching, I am committed to following this schedule and making a full-blown effort to implement this program in my classroom.

    July 7, 2011 - What is a PLN?
    I have been spending the summer building my PLN - Personal Learning Network.  My network already included family, friends, and colleagues from work, but now thanks to Twitter and blogging, it includes educators from all over the world!  I have connected with so many people from the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Australia, New Zealand, and more.  I am even working with a group of teachers in forming a global classroom using Skype, Twitter, and video-conferencing.  My PLN teaches me something new every day!

    Video credit:  D. Ainslie - Technology Chatter

    July 6, 2011 - What is a digital learner?
    Although I am spending a good bit of my summer vacation relaxing, cooking, and hanging with the family, I am also spending A LOT of time on the computer building my PLN and learning about Web 2.0.  My goal for this year is make my class Digital Learner Friendly.  

    July 5, 2011 - My summer reading program

    The first day of school is just around the corner and my summer reading program is in full swing! I have already read The Daily 5 and Places and Spaces, but I will be re-reading them as I plan for the upcoming school year.  Web 2.0 is a must read for any teacher who wants to integrate technology into the classroom.  It covers blogging, social networking, podcasts and vodcasts, applications, and much more! I started reading it in the bookstore today and could not put it down.  Unfortunately, the bookstore price was $35.00 but I was able to download it to my Nook for $12.95.  Some of the other books are available for download at almost half the price of the book version.  Now that's a frugal find!

    *I am an Amazon Affiliate and receive a small commission for items sold.  No compensation was received for this post and all opinions are my own.


    1. I have the same problem with only 2 classroom computers and 1 scheduled time in the computer lab, which is also my planning time. I wish to start a blog in my classroom and believe that it is very important. What I am going to do, to begin with, is divide my class in 5 groups and assign them days of the week to get on the computer. They will write in their journals daily and they can post any of their journal entries that they wish on their blogs. When they are in the computer lab, they can log onto our site and read their classmates blogs and leave comments. I am planning on using, so none of their comments will post until I have approved them. This is my plan right now and is the only way I can see around the classroom computer problem.

    2. Great idea about grouping! Students could do blogging as part of the "work on writing" component of the Daily 5! (Duh, why didn't I think of that?)
      Also, do students get their own login password for My only experience with blogging is with Blogger.

    3. I honestly don't know about the passwords on Kidblogs yet because I'm still in the planning stages and haven't implemented it. I chose it because of the moderating feature, which I think is really important for students who are new to blogging. I'm going to ask my PLN on Twitter and let you know.

    4. According to the site there is a login menu that allows students to select their name from a class list. I am liking what I see on This will work perfect for my 2nd graders. Thanks for the recommendation!

    5. I'm back. My PLN said that each student does have their own password and they also told me what you said about selecting their names from a drop-down list. I also like it because it is very private and you cannot see the blogs unless you have a password. Of course, I'll provide my parents with one, but I won't have to worry about anyone I don't want seeing them.

    6. Absolutely! Privacy and protection are my main concern! Some teachers use Blogger and have their kids analyze the Stats page to see where they are getting traffic from. I think for 2nd grade, a controlled environment like would be appropriate.

    7. Thank you for this nice review of SweetSearch. We do believe that SweetSearch4Me is the only search engine for kids that consistently ranks high quality web sites created for young learners on the first page. We'd love your feedback, as all of our products have been created and are constantly improved as the result of feedback from passionate educators like you. We'll also be introducing a web research tutorial in the next few weeks that we are quite excited about; here is a preview: Regards, Mark Moran, CEO, Dulcinea Media

    8. I will be glad to give you feedback after I see it in action with my students! I will also check out the preview and get the word out! Thanks for taking the time to stop by!