Sunday, July 29, 2018

I Promise School Year’s Eve

Tonight is School Year’s Eve.  The night before the first official day of school.  I originally wrote about School Year’s Eve in this post over at The Rudder.

I want badly to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and nod off to sleep like I do every night but this night feels different because tomorrow is different.

I am working with the most amazing team of people ever assembled.  And tomorrow we will change the path for 240 students who will be the first classes of students to enter the I Promise School. A school where joint ventures and partnerships are expected as with Akron Public Schools and the LeBron James Family Foundation.  A school that came from a dream of Lebron James, who’s more than an athlete.  He keeps promises to his kids and community and continues to give so much.

As LeBron shared via Twitter, earlier today, the opportunity before us as our students begin tomorrow is “to help them to find their passion, give back to our community and change the world!!”  He’s leading the charge along with his foundation, the Akron Public Schools and an army of partners and volunteers who’ve been quietly working behind the scenes to set the stage for success.

I keep thinking about resolutions for this new year...I think about the ones I wrote on six years ago with my first graders and I want these for our kiddos at the I Promise School too.  As the ball drops toward the launch of a monumental beginning, here are the resolutions I want to share:

Give Thanks and Build the community-Together
Read and Write every day-Together
Use tech to collaborate, critique, create and critically think-Together
Problem solve and Persevere through work-Together
Think and create with the most amazing teachers ever-Together.

I’m ready-except I have to Principal Davis says, “Let’s get it! Let’s go!”
And I’m ready to step off! #WeAreFamily

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

#Flipgrid Fever

Over the past few days, I've been diving in to work on all things technology as our district hosted a mini-tech conference #APS3T2018 Teach, Tech, Transform.  By all accounts, I would say that most participants agreed that our conference was a success.  We had around 300 participants join in the learning with us.  We were blessed to have Vicki Davis, @CoolCatTeacher, as our Keynote Speaker for Day 1 and @StephanieDonofe for Day 2.  They both shared inspiring stories that were woven through their keynote speeches which tugged at the heartstrings of all who listened.

The @CoolCatTeacher shared great advice with us-a reminder to pick three things and innovate like a turtle-slow and steady wins the race.  Stephanie's great advice was-keep moving forward no matter what.  I will heed the advice and move forward with three things I want to get better first is here-#flipgrid.

The tech tool I'm most inspired by is FlipGrid.  An announcement made yesterday about Flipgrid was that it will now be free to all who use it.  I am sure that this will only be for a short time so get it while it's hot!  I attended a deeper dive session today on how to use Flipgrid in the classroom.  One of the ideas shared was to use it as a reflection tool for students, teachers and parents.  I also like the idea of using as a bucket filler-a way to show kindness to others.

I hope to use it as a way for students to review books that they unearth as they participate in our school-wide after school book club when we start back to school.  I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say as they review and recommend their books to a friend.  It's very exciting to know that we now have a tool that can visually capture students' thinking so they can participate in making their mark on the world.

Thanks to Kristi and Jen for hosting the session and allowing us time to explore the #flipgrid tool.  I know I now have flipgrid fever.  LOL!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Grapefruit-A Fruit in Disguise

From the Wonder of the Day-I wrote a poem about this fruit in disguise...using the wonder to capture ideas and words about the topic of grapefruit.  Thanks to Wonderopolis for always inviting curiosity!

Grapefruit-The Fruit in Disguise

Grapefruit growing wild and free
Discovered in search of the knowledge tree

Seen by people, first given a name
"the forbidden fruit"-eaten in shame

Seems you're a cross between one and another
Pommelo and orange-one was your mother

At first you're a little like grapes-a little bit strange
then as you age you grow bigger and change 

Moving through time and revealed in print
Growing on trees and worth a mint

Tasty and healthy, packing a punch
Grab one from the grocery and eat it for lunch!

Thankful for Hughes and Lunart-our naming guys
Who helped us to learn about this fruit in disguise!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Stamp and Letter! Poems from Wonder

A few years ago, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at the Poem Farm inspired me to write poems about the Wonder of the Day from Wonderopolis.  She called it, "Wallow in Wonder". During National Poetry Month, I am always inspired to write a poem or two but don't always commit to the time it takes.

Since I am on Spring Break, I am straining my brain, shaking off the rust and working to pen some poetry. I read the Wonder of the Day-#2119 How Much Does a Postage Stamp Cost?  I felt inspired to watch and listen to the videos, capture some words in my notebook and then pen a two voices-the Stamp and the Letter.

Who is better?  Stamp or Letter?

Dear Stamp,
Money spent-
Letter sent-
because of you,
my message goes through
Thank you postage stamp so true,
Thank you Stamp for being you!

Dear Letter,
Without you I'm nothing true
Because of you, I've a job to do-
Me and Postmark- and you go through
Thanks to you, Letter true
Thank you much for being you!

So  now we know
neither is better-
Each needs the other
Stamp and Letter!

Created with pix from Pixabay
and Google Drawings

Monday, March 12, 2018

Google Slides into Home with the Pear Deck Add-on

Are your presentations pleasingly plump with interaction or familiarly flat without any connection?

These days, connecting and being in tune with audience interactivity throughout a presentation is key.   I work to blend the right amount of all things as I get ready to jump into learning with my crowd.  You might ask how?  A tool I've started using is Google Slides with the Pear Deck add-on.
See these examples for how it might work:

Happy "Pearing" teachers!

Code of Kindness

The Code of Kindness!
I decided to create QR codes that inspire thoughts of kindness.   First, I created a table in Word with two columns (one for the QR codes and one for quotes) I chose ten random quotes that had to do with generating kindness.  I then pasted all ten of them in the second column of the table.  Next, I went to this QR code Generator Website .  

At the site, I chose the data type, pasted the content (one quote at a time) and chose the color.  Then, I downloaded and renamed each one with the first few words of the quote.  I did this so I knew which one I needed to paste in the word table I made.

Some words of wisdom if you choose to do this!  Make sure you edit your quotes before you paste them in the QR creator.   If you edit them after you generate the code, you have to redo the code so you’ll get the edited version.  If you want to choose a different color, make sure you do that before downloading as well.  And finally, light colors are difficult for scanners to pick up so try to use darker colors if you change them from black to color.

Have fun and remember to “Choose Kind!” generate a code of kindness this year!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Learning about a Person's Reading History

Shared by one of our wonderful presenters
Kim Haskins

Last week, I attended a wonderful 2.5 day IB (International Baccalaureate) Workshop on Inquiry Reading and Writing.  On our last day, we were encouraged to write an action plan to say how we would take our new learning and put it in place.  I wrote that I would share some of my new learning with the world!

So, I want to begin by walking through one of the first activities we did as a group-mapping our reading and writing lives...

Our presenters broke us up into two groups-one to write about our journey of reading and the other our journey of writing.

They got us started by playing beautiful, peaceful background music from the piano guys...I made a youtube playlist of their relaxing and wonderful to write to as I journeyed through these memories...
Here's my playlist:

Play it as you write about your reading and writing journey...if you need questions to jog your memory, check out this list of questions:  Reading History

Here's collage pic of how some of our pieces turned out...

and here's how mine turned out...

A common theme among the group who shared around me was the influence of their mothers on their literacy development.  I thought it important to note how parents influence literacy development...and I read facts from this site:  50 Top Literacy Statistics
Here's Stat 6 which talks about a mom's influence in terms of vocabulary development.

Stat # 6  Researchers found that when mothers frequently spoke to their infants, their children learned almost 300 more words by age 2 than did their peers whose mothers rarely spoke to them. Huttenlocher et al., 1991. Early vocabulary growth: Relation to language input and gender. Developmental Psychology, 27, 236-248.

I remember how my mom would read to me from my "I Can Read" books.  She influenced my literacy development and I moved from the bottom to the top reading groups as I moved through the primary grades.  I developed and evolved even more as a reader once I reached fourth grade and to this day can still remember how my fourth grade teacher read aloud.  Love you still Mrs. Hunter.

So I end  this blog post-curious to know your reading and writing history-share it with the world.

What does it look like?  Who's influenced you?  How will you influence others in the world?

Share your story...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The One Little Word Found Me

Today, I wanted to celebrate by writing about how my One Little Word found me.  I started off the new year wondering about my word...

others found theirs
shared them
and yet, I wondered more...





still no ideas...

I gave it up.  to.  God.

I prayed that I would find my word and just got going with things I needed to accomplish.  One of the first things on my professional 2018 to do list was achieving Google Level 1 Certification.  I did it!  You can read more about that here.

Then I realized-(trumpet blast)!

I felt like I had laser focus on achieving this goal.  And then it hit me, "focus" played a role in achieving the goal.  And that's how "Focus" found me.

Hello Focus!  My One Little Word for 2018.  I've had OLWs in the past (like, Listen, Balance and Believe).  These were all helpful.  I hope that Focus will serve me well for 2018.

Here's more about my One Little Word that's firmly planted in my brain:


  • visual thesaurus

where you can plug in a word and see how it connects

  • defined

via google omnibox

  • word clouded
created using

I pray that this word can help guide me like a compass and be my true north for 2018.  I am grateful for it finding me.  I will use it to:

  • grow my relationships, nurturing them just like the flowers I see in my garden, adding what I believe to be the right ingredients to flourish

  • inspire me professionally as a leader, teacher, and learner

  • help my path of positivity and help me avoid distractions

I know I have room to grow in the process of staying focused and I believe in my heart I can make this happen.

What have you chosen for your OLW this year?

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Focus and Let the Celebrating Begin

This week I am celebrating learning, focusing and meeting goals.   I'm celebrating accomplishment.  I'm celebrating being Google Certified Level 1!

My journey began awhile back.  I considered going for the Google Trainer Certification but then had to scale back because personal life took priority over professional life.  So last summer, I restarted with going for Level 1 since I joined up with a district team of teachers who were part of the Keys to Successful Technology Integration.  At that time, I worked on completing the first 8 units...personal life took priority again as I was dealing with my dad's hospitalization, my mom's dementia and then my dad passing away.

Finally over break, I revisited the Google Training Center.  I love the first quote you see on that page:
It's really true for me-learning never stops.  I worked on completing the last five units for Level 1 Certification and then signed up to take the exam.  It truly took almost the whole three hours to complete and consisted of two parts.  One part contains the twenty multiple choice questions-not just a,b, c, d-like but hard multiple correct selections as well as drag and drop sorts.  The other part is eleven multi-step scenarios where actual use of Google's tools are put in place.

As I readied to submit my exam for grading, I sucked in a huge breath and hit submit.  I prayed to God at that moment that all of the hard work and energy I put into completing the task would pay off.


Seconds and then minutes passed as I waited for the email to announce whether I'd passed.


You've got mail...

I opened the email and SURPRISE!

The notice that I passed!  YAY!

Now, on to Level 2.

Some advice for others who decide to go for it...

Studying helped.
Going through the quizzes at the end of each unit helped.
Reading the scenarios and working them out on my own helped.
Using Google Tools regularly helps (our district is a Google Apps for Education district).

Celebrate with me!  So happy to have met this goal.  I think this experience helped me find my One Little Word for the year...Focus.  However, that is another post for here in the cafe.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Celebrating a Writing Superhero!

#celebratelu this week too, join in over at Ruth's blog

I'm now afforded new amounts of time.  So, I am joyfully writing on a Saturday!

At this blog, I intend to share new learning and leading.  My celebration relates to Ruth and the superhero's response to questions regarding how to reach struggling writers who just don't care.  I'm learning...

Another coach posed the question, "How do we reach students who just don't care?"

I immediately thought of seeking help from Ruth-she's one of my writing Super Heroes!  Cue the trumpets!

I really had no idea that Ruth has just launched her new book, Enticing Hard to Reach Writers.

Thankfully, Ruth quickly responded and offered recommendations from a few of the chapters to help us as we work diligently to reach and teach all writers.

From Chapter 5-think about how behaviors mask needs!  You'll need markers, a jar and masking tape for this one.

From Chapter 1-the importance of understanding how brains work (neuroplasticity-The brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.)

From pages 79-80 a chart which outlines moves to make with hard to reach writers.  As I perused the list, I zeroed in on ways to simplify conferring (Chapter 18) for students who are having a difficult time talking about their writing or writing process, "Increase students' energy for writing by asking open-ended questions while conferring"  and  "Name strengths students have as writers."  Consideration for this advice assumes writing and conferring happen daily-a must.

I hope you'll consider reading this book...

So I must thank my writing superhero and celebrate her help.
What a Writing Superhero looks like.
By Natalie

I appreciate Ruth's tenacity and capacity to see this work through to publishing in the name of helping so many more teachers of writers and writers themselves to grow through life's challenges and CELEBRATE!

By the way, Ruth didn't ask me do write this, I just knew I had to!