Sunday, January 19, 2014

Celebrating Uncommon Thinking

We all have these students. The ones who can't sit still. The ones who have their own agenda and their own way of doing things. They are rebels. They are trouble makers. These are the kids who don't just think outside of the box, they simply don't acknowledge the existence of a box in the first place. They're called "weird" or "crazy" by both students and adults. These students challenge the status quo and are typically bored in the traditional classroom setting. They also have the ability to melt your heart and drive you crazy, all in a matter of seconds. Sadly, many of our institutions are structured in such a way to encourage these students to conform to some acceptable behavior code and culture. 

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not against behavior interventions to modify student behavior. But, the students I'm talking about don't need a behavior chart or an intervention. They need to be heard. They need to be encouraged. They need the freedom to be them. They do not need to be changed. 

I also love and appreciate a well-structured, organized classroom. However, organization which requires everyone to be the same, and do the same, limits our potential to unveil and encourage the kind of experiences that lead to student innovation and accomplishment. Fair isn't always everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need. We need to celebrate uncommon thinking, allowing differences to enhance the culture of the classroom. 

The students who may have what some call "crazy" ideas or the ones who feel the need to break a rule for a good cause; those are the students who are going to change things. They will do spectacular things in their lifetime. Don't you want to be the one they always remember as the teacher who just let them be who they are? I know I do. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Top 5 Tech Tools for Teachers and Students

Educational Technology became a new passion of mine this past year. Thanks to my wonderful PLN on Twitter, I've discovered so many tools I can use in and out of the classroom. The following tools have helped my students and I get organized, create, demonstrate learning, and more.  I hope you'll enjoy these tools as much as we do! - This website allows students and adults to build a virtual wall. Formerly know as Wallwisher, this site gives you a blank wall on which you can put anything you want. Simply click (or tap for you tablet users) anywhere on your wall and add your text.  Users can also add multimedia and share their walls instantly. My students have created walls to demonstrate what they have learned about a particular topic. They love to play with the layouts! Padlet can be used as a discussion forum to share thoughts on a particular topic, create timelines, brainstorm menus, and so much more. The possibilities are endless! Check out examples in Padlet's gallery for more ideas. - This is an online whiteboard students and teachers can use to draw a simple sketch, work out math problems, or even jot down a quick list. My students love using this website on their iPads during math. Instead of using individual dry erase boards, students can solve math problems by drawing and writing with their fingertips. The drawing tools come in two different thicknesses and various colors. There's also an eraser tool. Your whiteboard is instantly saved and is designed for collaboration. 
Pocket - This is a free app available on iPhone and iPad which allows you to save articles, blog posts, or web pages all in one spot.  This app quickly became my favorite tool! There have been so many times I've come across an article or a blog post on Twitter and I just didn't have time to read it right then and there. Now, within five seconds I can have it saved to my Pocket. The app is easy to set up and gives you very easy directions showing you how to save items you wish to read later. 
Cloudart - Cloudart is a great creation app that let's you make colorful and dynamic word clouds. Check out the word cloud I made under my last post. I've also used this free app to create a cloud for my students. Create a word cloud using the lyrics to a favorite song or words from an iconic speech.  Let your imagination run wild! Simply copy and paste, or type text into the app and it will automatically create a beautiful word cloud for you. You can also play with fonts and color pallets, or create a custom pallet. Your word cloud can be saved to your camera roll and easily shared with friends. 
Vine - Vine is Twitter's baby. Vine allows you to create six second videos and instantly share them on Twitter. My students and I use Vine to document the learning that takes place in our classroom and then we post it to our classroom Twitter account. Through Twitter and Vine, my students connect on a global scale. Parents also love having a glimpse into our classroom. Vine allows us to be creative and think carefully as we record and edit using a six second time frame. Whether you're documenting the learning process, or making how-to videos, parents and students around the world will enjoy learning from and with you and your students.
My students and I love these creation tools and I hope they will be helpful to you and your students as well. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014


New Year's Resolution? No thanks. Let's be honest here, those almost never stick. Authors Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Paige have written a book introducing a new take on this ill-fated tradition. One Word that Will Change Your Life encourages us to simplify our lives and careers by focusing on one word for the entire year instead of endless goals and resolutions. Your "one word" will create a simple and focused approach for the new year. 

After a great deal of thought and reflection on the past year, I've decided my word for 2014 is IGNITE. The definition I found that best describes how I envision this word is "to arouse the passions of; excite".  Like most teachers, I want my students to love school and to love learning. I pride myself on providing my students with an uncommon classroom experience. 

At this point in the school year, rules and procedures are established and are second nature. I have a trusting and solid relationship with each one of my students. We have also discovered and embarked on uncharted territory together. Exploration and innovation have become part of our culture. My focus for the second semester is to take this a step further and IGNITE their curiosity and passion. I want my growing first graders to create more, initiate more, and excite others with their enthusiasm for learning and doing. 

My One Word for 2014 is not only related to my passion- my students. For me, IGNITE also means to create and launch ideas myself. Hence, this first blog post! I also hope to IGNITE sparks in my family, friends, and fellow teachers simply through encouragement and support. 

What will your One Word be for 2014?

Thanks for reading,

For more information, check out or search the hashtag #oneword on Twitter.